Jean Pain (1930 – 1981) was a farmer/forester in southern France who developed innovative ways to generate high-value compost out of shredded woody-biomass. His compost made from high-carbon, low nitrogen woody biomass generated better crop-yield results than conventional fertilizers, and he also powered his entire farm and homestead from the energy harvested from his composting processes.
By progressive crop-applications of this compost Pain demonstrated and recorded in detail that high quality vegetables could be grown without irrigation in his dry soils of southern France. He also claimed that the forest itself could be regenerated by selective use of the same material.
Jean Pain developed two digestive-composting processes by which large amounts of energy were captured from woody biomass: compost piles get hot, because in the presence of oxygen, cellulose and lignins in woody material break down to humus through what is known as aerobic digestion; the second and perhaps more innovative process showed that shredded woody-biomass contained in a an anaerobic chamber held at a constant temperature by the surrounding compost-mound would support bacteria that produce large amounts of methane gas for extended periods of time.
Methane—natural gas—is an industrial fuel. It can provide clean combustion energy for cooking and space heating, and it can also run internal combustion motors and electricity-generators. Convenience in transport and for vehicle use dictates compressing the gas, but this too is possible with methane-generated electricity and simple compressors.
Jean Pain garnered much fan-fare in Europe in the late 1970s. But unfortunately Jean Pain’s death in 1981 and the re-emergence of cheap fossil fuel in the 1980s resulted in his methods being all but forgotten, until the founders of the Compost Power Network and the Carbon Shredders began experimenting with the Jean Pain method in 2008.